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Middle East

Syrian government agrees to Annan peace plan


Latest update : 2012-03-27

Syria's government agreed Tuesday to a six-point peace plan proposed by joint United Nations-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan. The plan calls for a daily two-hour ceasefire and unrestricted access to areas affected by clashes.

AFP - Syria has accepted a proposal crafted by Kofi Annan that aims to end bloodshed roiling the country, the envoy's spokesman said Tuesday, as monitors gave a toll of almost 10,000 dead in the year-long uprising.

With fighting raging in several flashpoints across Syria in which at least another 17 people died, United Nations-Arab League envoy Annan, on a visit to Beijing, cautioned that implementation of his six-point plan is key to peace.

Annan's plan includes calls for a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire and access to all areas affected by the fighting in Syria.

"The Syrian government has written to the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan accepting his six-point plan, endorsed by the United Nations Security Council," Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in a statement issued in Geneva.

"Mr Annan views this as an important initial step that could bring an end to the violence and the bloodshed, provide aid to the suffering, and create an environment conducive to a political dialogue that would fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people," he said.

The former UN secretary general held talks in Beijing with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who pledged his support for his mediation efforts -- as did Russian President Dmitry Medvedev when Annan visited Moscow over the weekend.

China and Russia -- both allies of Syria -- have provoked Western fury by twice blocking UN Security Council resolutions that condemned President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

According to Fawzi, Annan has written to Assad asking Damascus to "put its (plan's) commitments into immediate effect."

He has also urged the release of people detained over the past year of the uprising against Assad's regime.

"Mr Annan has stressed that implementation will be key, not only for the Syrian people, who are caught in the middle of this tragedy, but also for the region and the international community as a whole," Fawzi said.

Western nations gave a cautious welcome to the news, with most envoys saying Syria's actions now will be a test of its attitude to international calls to halt the killings.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, gave a new toll of almost 10,000 people killed in violence linked to the crackdown on dissent by the regime since March last year.

A total of 9,734 people have died, including 7,056 civilians, the Britain-based monitoring group said.

The United Nations on Tuesday gave an updated toll of "more than 9,000 people" killed, but did not specify if the deaths included soldiers and rebel troops.

"Violence on the ground has continued unabated," Robert Serry, a UN Middle East peace envoy, told a Security Council meeting in New York.

"Credible estimates put the probable death toll since the beginning of the uprising one year ago to more than 9,000. It is urgent to stop the fighting and prevent a further violent escalation of the conflict," Serry added.

Even as he was speaking, Syrian forces were pressing their assault across the country with at least 17 people, including three women, killed on Tuesday, the Observatory said.

The monitoring group said nine of those who died were civilians, among them one man who died in intense clashes near the central town of Qusayr, near the border with Lebanon.

Officials said the clashes also spilled over into Lebanon as Syrian troops chasing rebels made a brief incursion into a sparsely populated area of Lebanon's eastern Bekaa region.

State television reported Assad had inspected troops stationed in the flashpoint Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs city, site of a fierce battle between regime forces and rebel troops that has left hundreds dead.

With diplomatic efforts to halt the bloodletting intensifying, Syria's opposition factions met for a second day in Istanbul to agree on common objectives for the future ahead of a weekend international conference.

The Syrian National Council (SNC) main opposition group unveiled a proposal to lay the foundations of a new Syria to some 400 opponents of Assad's regime, at a closed door meeting at a hotel outside Istanbul.

But unity proved elusive.

The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, which groups Arab nationalist parties, Kurds and socialists, shunned the gathering.

Also absent also were a small group of intellectuals, including prominent writer and rights activist Michel Kilo.

Dissent broke out among participants from the start of the meeting, with human rights activist Haitham al-Maleh withdrawing from the talks and accusing the SNC of not respecting others and imposing its will.

Date created : 2012-03-27


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